How To Write the Bates College Supplement

Bates College is a liberal arts college located in Lewiston, ME. Bates is a top tier school of about 1,700 undergraduates where we’ve sent many of our students, and they absolutely love it.

Some fun facts about Bates:

  • They have a 10:1 student to faculty ratio, which is one of the lowest amongst top tier schools.

  • Bates operates on the semester schedule, but offers Short terms in between semesters. Students can take advantage of abbreviated courses and experiences during this time such as: off-campus units like studying painting in Italy or Cuban history in Cuba; lab experiments; geological fieldwork in Hawaii; the list goes on. Students can participate in up to three Short terms before they graduate.

  • Every senior completes a thesis or senior capstone project.

Those are just a few facts to get your brain going. But we’re here to break down their supplement for you. Read on.

What draws you to Bates? Consider the Bates Mission Statement (below) in your response (1-2 paragraphs).

Since 1855, Bates College has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts. Bates educates the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community. With ardor and devotion—Amore ac Studio—we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action. Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world, Bates is a college for coming times.

This may seem a bit more intimidating than the typical “Why X School?” question because of the second paragraph, but don’t let that trip you up. They’re giving you some general information about Bates and emphasizing some of its academic and cultural cornerstones. The main guideline is to make thinly veiled references so their unique cornerstones. Don’t focus your writing on that text. Focus your writing on your research and why you want to go to Bates over any other college.

First, let’s start with research, the basis of all “Why X College?” answers. Bates is asking for 1-2 paragraphs—let’s say ½ page (~350 words or so) to give you an idea of what you should be aiming for. We tell our students that they should write two paragraphs: the first should cover your academic interests and the other your cultural attraction to Bates. They should be concise, well researched, and fun to read. Your story should leave your admissions reader with a vision of you at Bates, thriving and contributing to the community in such a way that they just have to have you. It’s easy.

Academic research should go as follows: pick a major or concentration, and go to their website. Investigate their course offerings, delve into their list of faculty members and professors. Keep a live document with a list of unique courses that stand out to you. These should be courses that are unique to Bates, so exclude Econ 101. Also make note of professors who are doing research that fascinates you.

When choosing which major to focus on, don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t really know what you want to study. Most people don’t, and that’s okay. Bates won’t hold you to your Art History major once you arrive. You should choose a topic that makes sense given your profile. Try to look at your application from an objective perspective when determining which major you choose to focus on--if you’ve taken AP Art History and all of the AP History courses offered, it won’t make very much sense for you to say that you want to major in Computer Science. Certainly mention that you’re interested in it, but it’s probably shouldn’t be your focus. Additionally, you should write about why you want to study Art History at Bates specifically (over Williams, Amherst, and Middlebury). What makes Bates’ department unique and why do you want to be in their classrooms of all places.

Then, we move onto Bates as a whole. Why is being in Maine important to you? Which Bates traditions excite you the most? Why is becoming a Bobcat a dream? Talk about the culture of Bates and what makes it stand out to you as your ideal school, environment, and community. Again, do your research and if possible, visit so that you can ask your questions and make your contacts. Add extracurricular activities, nearby mountains you want to climb, and student groups that you want to join to your running list of things that make Bates amazing, and write about them in a way that wakes the admissions readers up.

To us, Bates saying that they “educate the whole person” means that you can even be a bit creative with this response. Write a short-form letter to Bates gushing about how you’ve had a crush on them from afar and have finally worked up the courage to tell them all of the things you’ve noticed. Discuss your bizarre love of swimming in very cold bodies of water as a 5-year participant in the Coney Island New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim. As such, you’ll absolutely be completing the puddle jump your freshman winter. Get creative and help the reader envision you on campus.

This relatively open-ended “Why X School?” question can be a bit overwhelming and hard to tackle, but we promise it’s not that bad and made infinitely easier if you have a list to refer to. It’s helpful to narrow it down to 2-3 topics to cover, and it’s even okay to focus on 1 academic thing and 2 cultural things if you feel particularly passionate about them. Additionally, because they are not specific about the length, you have a bit of freedom. We tend to find that less is more and restraint can be a powerful tool. You can convey more of a distinct and memorable message with fewer words if they are well thought out and tell a story about you.

If you have any questions at all, just ask. We’re happy to hop on the phone for a chat.